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Wine @ Work: Running MS Office and IE on Linux

Let the Bacchanalia begin! Getting your Windows apps installed and running on Linux the Wine way.

King Solomon called wine a mocker and the same can be said of Wine: The software package that runs Windows software under Linux. It mocks the way we think about platform-specific programs and applications — blurring the lines between Windows and Linux.

It mocks the way we think of interoperability and compatibility — drowning the ever-present murmurings about the lack of rich applications for Linux. It mocks the way a certain company markets itself as the only way to run its programs — decreasing the need for a costly and proprietary operating system.

Wine is a liberator, a rebel, and a mocker but it is not an emulator. Wine Is Not an Emulator is the recursive acronym that defines Wine as an implementation of the Windows API and as a translation layer capable of running Windows programs natively on Linux. The Wine developers prefer the more modern and friendly version, Wine to the older, more clever WINE.

Wine Tasting

Wine began its life in 1993 as a way to run Windows 3.1 applications in Linux. Wine may well have had the longest beta period in history at 15 years, however version 1.0 was recently released in June 2008.

In this article, I show you how to install Wine, Microsoft Office 2003, and Internet Explorer using my Red Hat derivative system (CentOS 5.1) as the host. You can give your system some Wine by compiling from source code, or by installing pre-compiled binaries from your distro’s repositories.

Your Own Label

The Wine web site is the main source of information, and you’ll find the source code at their SourceForge site at http://sourceforge.net/projects/wine.

Installing from source is the only sure way to get exactly what you want from Wine although the installer does most of the work for you. You purists can still kick it old school with ./configure, make depend, make, make install but most everyone else will want to use the recommended tools/wineinstall script. Whichever method you choose, Wine has numerous prerequisites that are required: see Recommended_Packages for a complete list for your distribution.

The configure script, upon completion, presents you with a list of missing but non-fatal packages. I suggest that you install them all for a richer and less troublesome experience with Wine. The best message you can receive when compiling from source is “Wine build complete.” Wine is a large and complex suite of applications, dlls, and other support files so don’t be too surprised if you experience many failures along the way.

The Wine Kit

You may find it easier to make your Wine from a kit (binary package) supplied by WineHQ. You’ll find these packages on the Wine Binary Downloads page. There are packages for every major Linux distribution, FreeBSD, PC-BSD, Solaris, and, for some reason, Windows.

Whether or not the packages you download contain their necessary dependencies, depends largely on the package maintainer. Some maintainers offer a series of packages so that those with the expertise can choose specific packages for installation and they assume you can handle the dependencies. The maintainer for the Fedora packages suggests that for RedHat-related distributions normal users should use the yum method of installation.

The Wine Store

You’ve tried solving endless dependencies with your source install, you’ve done much the same with attempting a manual installation with individual packages, and now you’re ready to try the foolproof (almost) method of using your package management system. This method is for those who would like to try Wine without first growing the grapes.

Package management software like yum, smart, and apt-get exist for a reason — they automate software download and installation. They also have some built-in intelligence, which means your dependency problems generally solve themselves during a package request. These package management systems all have the same basic syntax:

yum install wine
smart install wine
apt-get install wine

They all perform the same functions as well: Query configured repositories, download packages and dependencies, and install the dependencies and packages in the correct order. It is interesting to note that you must be root or use sudo to use these installers but you are not supposed to run Wine as root. After the initial installation of Wine, you should install all applications as a regular user. Wine applications appear in your Window Manager menus after you logout and login again.

A Tour of the Vineyard

Wine sets up an interesting hierarchy of files on your system. It installs everything under a .wine folder in your home directory. The use of the term ‘folder’ distinguishes Windows directories from Unix directories. Under the .wine folder, you will see a drive_c and dosdevices folders and three files (system.reg, userdef.reg, and user.reg). The drive_c folder contains the MSOCACHE, Program Files, and windows folders.

Figure 1 gives you a look at the files and folders under .wine from a Wine File (File Manager) perspective.


FIGURE 1: The Wine File View of Your Wine Installation

The Program Files folder houses your installed Windows applications such as Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, and so on. Under the Windows folder, you’ll find Windows-related executables (notepad.exe, regedit.exe, winhelp.exe) and folders such as system, system32, fonts, temp, profiles, and others.

Never edit the registry directly using notepad or any other text editor. Use regedit to edit registry entries manually or regedit filename.reg to import a .reg file into your registry.

Mulling Microsoft Office

The three main applications that most users use are an office suite, email, and an Internet browser. Of the applications in the office suite, the word processing program gets the most use. Though Linux has great offerings in each of those arenas (office suite, email, and browser), some feel that they need a particular brand of product for compatibility reasons. Read my December 2007 article “A Tour of Linux Office Suites” to find out why this is no longer true.

Still, there are those who resist Linux on the desktop stating compatibility reasons mostly centered on Microsoft Word and Outlook. To everyone’s surprise, Wine supports Microsoft Office suites all the way back to the Office 97 era. Unfortunately, Outlook doesn’t work in Wine. Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Word all work to varying degrees.

Word is the best supported of all the office applications. For an email client compatible with Microsoft Exchange Server or Novell GroupWise, try Novell’s Evolution 2.0 email client that installs natively into Linux.

  • Navigate to the Microsoft Office CD, locate the setup.exe file, right click setup.exe and launch it with the menu selection “Open with Wine Windows Emulator.” See Figure 2.


    FIGURE 2: Launching Microsoft’s Office 2003 setup.exe with Wine

  • The installer launches and prompts you for the 25-character Office Product Key.
  • Select the type of installation (Typical, Complete, Minimal, or Custom).
  • The installation proceeds to completion and you click Finish.

The Office 2003 proceeds without issue in most cases but as stated in the previous section, you might have to logout and login again to your Window Manager for the Microsoft Office entries to show up under Wine in your menus as shown in Figure 3.


FIGURE 3: Microsoft Office 2003 Wine Menu

One of the problems with Microsoft Word is that when attempting to use the Spelling and Grammar features, via the menu or a hot key combination, Word crashes. Some of these advanced features don’t work yet in Wine but basic word processing and production of 100% Microsoft Office compatible documents, spreadsheets, and other files is possible through the magic of Wine.

Browsing the Grapevine

The need for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer on Linux is a bit ambiguous since there are plenty of other browsers available. If a company decides that a particular browser’s use is mandatory, then this is one way of complying with that standard. Internet Explorer isn’t officially supported by Wine according to the documentation but there is a project that makes it possible: IEs4Linux.

Before you install IEs4Linux, you need to install cabextract (http://www.cabextract.org.uk) because Microsoft packs Internet Explorer’s files as CABs (Microsoft Cabinet Files). You can install cabextract from source, manually via package files, or with your package management software.

Visit the IEs4Linux home page at http://tinyurl.com/jzykl. The IEs4Linux Project is the brainchild of a solo developer who manages the project, and his university studies, from Brazil. The project is a script that downloads specific Internet Explorer files from Microsoft and Adobe to build a usable Internet Explorer experience on Linux.

Installing IEs4Linux is straightforward. Download the tarball, extract it, then run the installation script using the following recommended method:

wget http://tinyurl.com/ycujbb
tar zxvf ies4linux-latest.tar.gz
cd ies4linux-*
./ies4linux

The installation dialog offers you the opportunity to install IE 6, 5.5, or 5, and optionally the Adobe Flash plug-in. See Figure 4.


FIGURE 4: The IEs4Linux Installation Selections Dialog

Figure 5 shows the download process in progress.


FIGURE 5: IEs4Linux Download Process

If you receive errors during the graphical installation or a notice that the install failed, use the non-graphical version:

./ies4linux - -nogui

Figure 6 shows my Linux Desktop sporting both Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer 6.


FIGURE 6: Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word 2003 Running in Linux

Take Home a Bottle or Two

Wine isn’t perfect but it does give you the subtle bouquet and flavor of using Windows programs on Linux. To see a list of what others have tried and succeeded, or failed, at with Wine, go to http://appdb.winehq.org/appbrowse.php. Each application is rated, from Gold to Garbage, depending on how well it works.

I like Wine and it works well for a lot of applications — well enough, in fact, to somewhat silence the “Microsoft compatibility crowd.” I think now that it’s almost version 1.0 release ready, it will garner more interest, developers, and adopters. I see no reason why it shouldn’t for those who believe that they must have certain brands of apps running in their environment.

Comments on "Wine @ Work: Running MS Office and IE on Linux"

hulksmashlinux

You said – “Unfortunately, Outlook doesn’t work in Wine. Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Word all work to varying degrees.”

What an understatement. Why not just say it is very buggy.

IEs4Linux on their site says “it is not for browsing” Meaning it doesn’t work very well for general purpose use.

Notepad works (yeah?) but even MS Money won’t work.

Dual booting and or Vmware / Virtualbox (I have to do both) are still the best options if you have MS apps that you like, prefer or are just superior to the Linux equivalents.

iansane

I have to agree from my experience as limited as it is, that a VM with windows is the best way to run Win apps.

I was new to linux when I tried Wine. A few months and a new version of Ubuntu later, I tried it again with the same bad results. Nothing I tried to install would work right. My lack of understanding and not being able to just click on an exe and have it all work perfectly plus the need for Windows and lack of time to mess with Wine was enough motivation to install VMWare.

I will admit though that I didn’t try to research the problems or check out the list of supported apps before trying to install. I think Wine is like many things in Linux. To get the best performance or in some cases, any performance at all, you have to RTFM 2 or 3 times and then go ask for help on a forum. BTW, Most of the forums are really great.

Having said that, Ubuntu is still far better in many areas than Windows in my opinion, So when I have time, I’ll go RTFM again and give Wine another try.:-)

shreedhan

Why would I want MS Office or IE on my Linux ?
Open Office and Firefox are pretty good.
I don’t like touch of proprietary softwares in my open Linux.

awc

This was a great little tutorial on installing and using wine. Sometimes it’s necessary to use wine for specific purposes, such as viewing a newly designed website in IE.

However, wine does not work 100% and it does not run the one and only Windows app I needed, namely Quickbooks. In reality I have no need to run ANY other program as Linux offers everything I need to be 99.99999% functional.

My solution was to buy some old used PC just for Quickbooks, which I turn on only a few times a month.

vgiralt

For such sporadic use, there is no need to buy anything in any modern Linux, just try KVM, the Kernel Virtual Machine, and run the M$ crap inside a box, just like VMware, but without the proprietary flavor and the usual upgrade headaches of the proprietary modules it needs to run.

angus77

Good God! why would you want to do this? Even back when I still used Windows, I used OOo and Firefox. Office and IE drove me nuts! Your suggesting I could run them even more buggily on Linux?!

I don’t even have Wine installed these days. Why would you seriously need it unless you’re a gamer?

I respect 15 years of hard work the Wine people have put into this, but I’d like to think it was for a better purpose than porting IE…

us41

Lame. Wine is a sort of poster-child application for everything that has ever turned off the general public from Linux as an operating system:

* 10 year long pre-release period
* ludicrous pre-release public testing period ends and it still doesn’t really work well enough to rely upon professionally
* World’s most ubiquitous program (Outlook) not supported
* World’s 2nd most used program (Word) can’t use it’s most important and frequently called-upon feature (Spell Check)

Wine also brings with it the culture of the 1990′s Linux development world. It has an arrogant, nerdy name (if you say the word recursive around non-nerds, they will furrow their brows and look at you like you have a second head). The name is arrogant because the name itself tries to force the user to refer to the program “properly”, because programmer nerds always have to be right and don’t care about getting along with people.

Wine is built by the wrong people with the wrong personalities using the wrong mission the goals of which are not accomplished.

Scrap it. Let a newer, younger group of people without chips on their shoulders who are more secure with themselves and their technological interest start over from scratch and reduce the scope so they can actually finish and succeed in a short period of time.

“But it’s free!”

And worth every penny I paid for it.

bd6627

Well, I use wine to run one program. Esword and it works great. I agree that there is no need for IE or MS Office. I use firefox, which works for most things, and Open Office.

hanzajohn

Ok,guys. I’m a linux lover also. But I’ve started learn computers with MS. I don’t think you should run (- yet ) windows application on Linux . Just try Windows. You’ll love what Office 2007 can do on Vista. Belive me developers – it reduce your time of coding and fullfill your wishes – more time for learning newer things.

joe1974

I have read a few comments that “drop the oranges out of the tub”. Using Wine is not one of my best options, but, why should I use MS Office and IE for? Maybe, and only MAYBE if I was doing some development stuff right in Wine.

There are better applications running on my Red Hat based Fedora 9 installation. No need to name them, they’re open and libres. Why should I pay for a MS product I can’t even contribute to?

Greetings.

funkym0nk3y

IE for compatibility testings with a developments. :)

munguia.carlos

Sometimes in the enterprice and for some intranet websites is necesary run IE and Win-Office , Wine is a great tool , I prefered firefox and oOo , but for compatibility is necesary propietary appliction and wine is my prefered tool

achusxmachina

I am very happy to see wine supporting loads of M$ apps. Personally I use it to run Corel Draw which runs perfectly. There are a few apps linux does not have a proper replacement for:
- DTP Software: Scribus is fine but it has some drawbacks in usability
- Visio: Kivio and OODraw are nowhere near as powerful
A huge Problem with running MS Office is that you do not get any updates. the MS update tool with its activex applet and Genuine Advantage blabla will never run on linux. That will never make it into enterprise deployments

chas_martel

Some of us have to work with other people around the world
and Excel is the only game in town. Have you ever
created a “complex” spreadsheet that works in Excel
AND Calc? They are not compatible and 99.99999% of the
world uses Excel, so there you have it, there is
no choice. MS wins in the de facto sense of the word win.

mikemeek

If it’s scope is to run every Windows program ever written, then Wine’s mission rings of Dan Akroyd’s ‘Every Record Ever Recorded’ sales pitch on Saturday Night Live. Guys, even the OS for which the programs were INTENDED doesn’t properly run every application.

On the other hand, Wine is a perfect fit for organizations that are willing to switch office and email suites, but have an application or two written for M$ that are must-haves (ours is a document imaging package). Wine is a viable alternative to a second box or VM solution to run such applications.

slalji

I have a windows app called OpenBugs. I would like it to run using jobs, therefore would require wine to work without its graphical user interface. Is there a way to set wine to be command based only?

dvainsencher

Do you code in Office 2007?
Sorry, but my experience shows exactly the opposite. I became more productive in Linux and I could learn much more with the thousands of great tools, languages, etc, and with the collaborative and knowledge oriented culture that follows open source world. Believe me. ;-)

khess

Well, the main point of Wine for me in the article is to install familiar apps for people who are converting to Linux. It’s sometimes hard to leave the old stuff behind. Believe me, when I converted people off of WordStar and WordPerfect to MS Word, it was the same thing. People use what they’re comfortable with–this is why we need apps that are similar enough to gather support and adoption. OO.o and FireFox are similar enough for conversion.

You wouldn’t believe, though, how many times I had to hear “But in WordPerfect, we could do X.” Yeah? Really? Get over it. You’re boss says to use Word. It will have to be the same with OO.o, Linux, or any app.

patrickmoroney

I use Debian 2.6.25-2-686 Lenny with WindowMaker, and while Wine to installed, no Wine application was available in my WindowMaker menus. I tried adding ./usr/bin/wine to a menu, but only winecfg yielded the old style interface… Frustrating..

ben2talk

I installed Sun’s new Virtualbox 2.0 – and now can seamlessly run MS office 2007, or any other program i want to run in any operating system ‘seamlessly’ – though it generallly works nicely running full screen in it’s own workspace.

With WINE it’s more a matter of ‘what can I use with this?’

I prefer ‘I want to use ACDSee Pro2 because it’s better than anything in linux – where’s the tool to do that?’

My printer works very nicely with Windows, not with lnux – so Virtualbox handles my backend. There’s no point hiding, linux can’t match the combination of windows and all the software developers working together.

porridge

Did you try gqview? I find it the best viewer I’ve ever used, both in Linux and Windows, after you set “Leave zoom at previous setting” in preferences.

apshankar22

Wine like tools are indeed sometimes very helpful in very tight corners…when u do not have a windows license but you may need to run some windows applications desperately… Still many software vendors don’t provide softwares on linux platform….Wine will atleast enables them to be use some good features in windows applications…

nikbot

Vmware and Virtual Box\Dual Boot are the far more superior option for flexibility to an admin.

graemeharrison

After 26 years on M$ platforms, I am a convert to Ubuntu as a great desktop environment. However, one of the big let-downs is finding that when you install WINE, all you get is the tool, and there is still too much dicking around to get it operational. I understand the idea that a particular DLL has to be copied from your Windows licensed software… but even after that, getting basic things to run is WAY TOO HARD for the average user.

The team that support WINE ought do a deal with Irfan of Irfanview (www.irfanview.com) as he is not currently prepared to port his best-ever graphics display program from Windows to Linux, but he notes that it is free and runs under WINE. So WINE ought arrange that they can ship it as a pre-installed graphics editor in the binaries of WINE. That way, more than just Notepad would come up operational… and besides, most distros like Ubuntu do not ship a graphics display app which can display multi-page TIFFs (eg faxes) properly… so Irfanview would be a good addition.

Then do some fixing of the interface, so when you try to install a Windows app under WINE, the settings are actually stored and the thing runs…. Currently it is very obtuse and confusing. Better still, make it such that you can ‘just click’ on a Windows EXE and WINE automatically fires up and runs the app!… or if needed the first time for that app, it may wish to ask you a few pertinent questions.

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